Rants

2015

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So that was 2015.

No flying cars, there were hoverboards … but they didn’t hover, they just set fire to people’s houses.

Behind the scenes I had a thrilling and exciting year … but I can’t really talk about it.

Not yet, anyway … but one day. soon.

telling-a-secret

This is what’s immensely frustrating about being a scriptwriter – all the exciting things happen (and often die) out of the spotlight. By the time I’m allowed to talk about things (because contracts have finally been negotiated and signed) it’s old news and any excitement is feigned.

Well, not feigned … diluted. Like having to remember how excited you were about a Christmas present you got last year when it’s since been broken by the kid next door.fake-smile

But hey, it’s been a busy year with lots of stuff going on. On paper, it probably looks like not a lot … but that’s just the nature of the business. I’ve done a few uncredited rewrites, one of which has just been released … which is a yay I can’t publicly acknowledge.

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But never mind. If I was in it for the applause, I wouldn’t be a writer.

The rest of 2015, the bits I did talk about, went something like this:

JANUARY

Apparently all I did in January was talk about 2014, which although it included Ghostbusters and a suspicious looking codpiece …

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… seems a bit of a waste of a bloggy month.

FEBRUARY

Ah, hello groove I was wondering where you’d gone.

February was a proper blogging month full of blogs and … well, just blogs.

First off I tried to get you all to commit acts of phone-related mischief by adding ‘Okay Google’ phrases into scripts which would punish anyone who had their phone on in the cinema.

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Did any of you do it? Please say someone did it.

Then I defended Footloose because … it’s fucking Footloose. Footloose is awesome.

After succcessfully re-educating the world about the joys of ’80s dance, I went on to prove the three act structure is fine – stop trying to reinvent the wheel, it works just fine.

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And then I immediately explained why it doesn’t really work that well for a scriptwriter.

Aren’t you glad you’ve got me around to explain these things to you?

MARCH

March comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb …

I, on the other hand, came in with a thing about the joy of failing

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… stumbled into a confused ramble about clichés

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… mumbled something I can’t be bothered to reread about page thinking

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… compared Joss Whedon to HTC and rambled about how frustrating it must be to be either of them …

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… and went out with an in-depth discussing about liars and lying for a living.

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APRIL

April is where things got interesting …

Just not at first. First I wondered if maybe you shouldn’t really be able to point to the midpoint in a film.

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Then I used my blog to educate my producer as to why he shouldn’t get his hopes up about the first draft I was just about to deliver …

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Just as it might have got interesting … I got angry about spoilers instead.

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Then it got interesting. I had a phone call

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It was Danny Stack … and he didn’t want anything except a chat.

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Where it got interesting was it kicked off a string of phone calls between me and … well, just people. Nice people. People like Calum Chalmers.

MAY

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And it carried on with more nice people like Robin Bell, Andrew Mullins and Dominic Carver.

In fact, most of May was taken up with phone calls, broken only by me trying to figure out how to write the perfect cameo (it worked! I wish I could tell you how well it worked … but I can’t) and to celebrate my 10th wedding anniversary.

Oh and I went on a bit about competition and how much I enjoy it.

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JUNE

June continued the #PhonePhill-ing bringing delightful chats with Dee Chilton, Rosie Claverton and Rebecca Handley.

In fact, June was all phone calls apart from one post about being better and how we should all pursue knowledge as if it were a … thing. I don’t know. Insert your own simile, I’m tired.

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JULY

July brought yet more telephone awesomeness …

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This time in the shape of Mac McSharry, James Moran, Jay Sutherland and Terry Newman.

As well as yakking to people, I also (gasp!) worked over a weekend.

Apparently this is so shocking to me I felt the need to blog about it.

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I also made an uncredited appearance as Iron Man at a little boy’s birthday party in a homemade, cardboard costume:

I enjoyed that.

AUGUST

In August I had a little panic about potentially offending  someone I quite like by giving them script notes. In order to cover my anxiety, I wrote this post about the kind of script notes I get and how upsetting they can be … if you don’t take them in the spirit they’re intended.

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Later on, I followed that post up by giving myself notes on an old script.

Notes 1

I also pretended a meal/drink with some friends was a sort of #PhonePhill episode … even though it wasn’t.

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But it did lead to this picture, which is my favourite of the year:

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I rounded off August by highlighting my inability to not focus on background detail.

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SEPTEMBER

Man, I did a lot of blogging in 2015. Too much, some might say.

In September I added one more thing to a script and felt the need to tell everyone.

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Then I added a second thing and banged on about that too.

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I did a thing about tokenism and … well, I don’t know what my point was there. Feel free to read it and let me know.

Oh, and then I added some nonsense to Jason Arnopp’s blog post about hands.

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OCTOBER

I kicked off October by contrasting Rose Tyler with Jurassic Park … which, you know, is clearly two different things and needs a blog explaining why.

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And then … the future arrived!

I meant to take a photo of myself with my trousers on inside out … but I didn’t. Possibly because I don’t think I wore any in October.

Instead of wearing trousers, I watched some videos about deleted scenes from all three Star Wars films:

I say three because I’m a prequel denier. At that point I was adamant there were only three Star Wars films. Now, of course, there’s been another half of a Star Wars film.

Hopefully we’ll find out in a couple of years whether or not any of it makes sense.

NOVEMBER

Just when you thought I’d forgotten about it, another #PhonePhill – this time with William Gallagher. He’s written a book, you know. Bits of it are about me.

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Inspired by the resurgence of telephonic communication, I immediately didn’t do it again and instead waffled on about River Theory …

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Expressed my love for the Verity podcast …

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And raved on and on and on about this speech from Doctor Who:

Oh, and I found this photo of a Burt Reynolds crab.

Burt-Reynolds-Crab

DECEMBER

Which brings us to now. All I did in December was a handful of short blogs about other people’s stuff. Things like:

Arnopp’s patreon campaign, the UK Scriptwriter’s Handbook and the Heaven Sent/Hell Bent scripts.

There were meant to be more, but there wasn’t.

I didn’t even wish you a merry Christmas.

Merry Christmas.

There, I did it.

And so, with this year nearly spent, all eyes turn to the next one.

Hopefully it’ll include at least one blog about my new office:

And loads and loads about my next script to be produced:

Sparkle Poster

Happy New Year, let’s chat soon.

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Categories: #PhonePhill, Bored, Career Path, Christmas Crackers, Industry Musings, My Way, Progress, Publicity, Random Witterings, Rants, Sad Bastard, Someone Else's Way, Sparkle, The Ties That Bind, Things I've Learnt Recently, Two steps back, Writing and life | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Spoiling yourself

WARNING!

CONTAINS SPOILERS FOR

SAVING MR BANKS

THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK

AND

THE SIXTH SENSE

MIND YOU, IF YOU’VE READ THIS WARNING THEN YOU’VE ALREADY SPOILERED SAVING MR BANKS

Too many cooks may spoil the broth, but too much information definitely spoilers the movie.

For me, at least.

I’ve long been bamboozled by the level of spoilers in soap operas. I can’t understand why people want to know what’s happening in an episode before they’ve seen it.

“This is the one where so and so finds out thingamajig is her dad!”

As far as I can tell that’s every episode of every soap ever, but why would you want to know that before you watch it? Why is that fun? Why would you want to know anything about an episode of your favourite show before you’ve seen it?

Same goes for films. Why do people spend the year before a film is released dissecting trailers in the hope of finding out what the story is about? Why do people hunt down leaked screenplays and set images?

Isn’t half the fun of seeing a movie being surprised?

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Or is that just me?

Some films don’t wait for their audience to hunt down spoilers, they just spoiler themselves right off the bat.

The piece de resistance when it comes to spoilers has to be Saving Mr Banks – never before has a film been so comprehensively spoilered by its own title.

Saving_MrBanks_Poster

How much more amazing would that film have been if you didn’t know P L Travers’ objections were all about Saving Mr Banks? Imagine what a revelation it would have been to have got to the Walt Disney speech where he figures it out and have a light bulb click on in your own head.

I don’t even know if I’d have linked the flashbacks to P L Travers if I’d hadn’t read the title of the film.

But no, they put the twist in the title of the film. That’s like calling “The Empire Strikes Back”, “Vader is Luke’s Dad!”.

And just in case you didn’t get it from the title, they put the revelation scene in the fucking trailer. Right in there. Front and centre. Who made that decision? And why?

Imagine that person or persons cutting a trailer for The Sixth Sense. Would that film have been better or worse if it had a shot of Bruce Willis staring at the camera and saying “I’m dead, aren’t I?” in the trailer?

I’m voting worse, you may beg to differ.

“Let’s not call it “The Sixth Sense”, let’s call it “Kid Counseled by Dead Guy” that would be sooooooooo coooooooooool.”

“It’s about Saving Mr Banks, isn’t it?” For fuck’s sake – why was that line in the trailer? Why was anything from that late in the film in the trailer?

All I want in the trailer is the set up and maybe a montage-y thing summing up the first half of the second act. I want it to be a pictorial version of the blurb on the back of a DVD.

Or BluRay, if you want to be fancy.

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“This is a story about someone who wants something but can’t get it because of reasons.” Thanks very much, that sounds interesting, I’ll go and see that.

“This is a story about someone who wants something but can’t get it because of reasons and there’s this really cool bit at the end where you realise everyone has escaped from his imagination.”

No! Noooooooooooooo! Fucking NO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Stop spoilering films for me! Stop spoilering them in trailers and posters and especially stop spoilering them for me on Facebook, at great length, and then tagging me in the post.

UNFRIEND ROTTEN CARD

I don’t want to know. Honestly, I don’t. I’ll unfriend you. Seriously, I’ll fucking do it.

Well, okay, I won’t do it because I’m vaguely interested in your amusing cat stories and the outside chance you might post a photo of yourself in your pants … but, come on! Don’t spoiler the film for me.

Hell, don’t spoiler the film for yourself.

And trailer makers, just fucking don’t.

In general.

Please?

stop-it-86043152560

Categories: Bored, Random Witterings, Rants, Sad Bastard | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment

2013

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Oh come on! That was never a year!

Really? Did we have all the months? Does everyone remember having all the months? We must have skimped on one of the summer months. July? Anyone remember there being a July in 2013?

The rate time’s passing is getting ridiculous.

On the plus side, if it’s 2014 tomorrow, then it means we only have one more year until hoverboards and flying cars!

And yes, they are both on my future Christmas list.

So how was your 2013? Was it good? Did you enjoy it? All of it? Even the July which I’m sure the Government have covertly pinched?

Mine, since you’re doubtlessly asking, went something like this:

JANUARY

I started the year by getting a bit excited about January. No, I have no idea why either.

Then, inspired by this post by Debbie Moon, I got a bit ranty about jealousy.

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And I finished off the month by rambling on a bit about HMV maybe shutting down.

Which it didn’t.

The essence of my argument was it would be a shame if HMV went bust because the immediate next wave of filmmakers would never know the elation of walking into a shop and buying a copy of your own DVD. HMV is one of the last outlets who stock pretty much any low budget films. If they went, the only shelf space would be in supermarkets and they are a bit funny about what films they’ll sell.

Now, okay, DVDs (or Blu-Rays, if you prefer) will ultimately go away and people will feel giddy and excited about something else.

But a year later, DVDs are still here (as is HMV) and they’re still exciting. I don’t know about you, but I have a hierarchy of film-love. Only my absolute favourites get bought on DVD. Films I really enjoy … I probably won’t bother to buy. I might watch it several times on TV or pay to stream something … but only my absolute bestest films get bought.

Unless I know the writer and want to annoy/promote them.

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Having a film produced is exciting. Attending the première is more exciting. Seeing it in released in the cinemas is even more exciting still. But holding a physical copy in your hand, one you can put on the shelf or lend to people or just look at and smile … that’s the best bit.

For me.

Because that, in a small way, puts the thing I wrote on a similar footing to all the other films I love. Even when I fucking hate the actual film itself.

FEBRUARY

I began February by busting the shit out of the motivation, willpower and confidence conspiracy myth bullshit.

Or possibly by just ranting aimlessly about those imaginary things. One of the two.

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I finished off the month by loving Wreck-It Ralph. A lot.

At least I was right about that.

Was that it? Hmm … didn’t blog much in February, did I? Probably because I gave up chocolate, biscuits, sweets, crisps and cake in a vague effort to stop looking like a fucking hippo. That kind of thing is bound to make someone less bloggy.

MARCH

I began March by explaining, politely, that they don’t fucking love your script in Cannes – no matter what they may have said. If they loved it, they would have bought it. Did they buy it?

No. Then they didn’t love it.

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Yes, you can still pay me to re-write it.

I also blogged about exercise, P90X and biscuits – somehow finding it appropriate to insert myself into Death in Paradise wielding a spoon.

ginge-in-paradiseNo, I have no idea why either.

That was a weird thing to do. Although, the good news is I still have that spoon. In a lovely bit of serendipity, I stole it from the Jamaican hotel which initially inspired Death in Paradise. It’s now my emergency back up spoon.

Then I wrote a blog about Other People’s Ideas and how hard they are to write. For some reason I equated it to making a human being and having too many ears.

Seriously, never give up biscuits. It’s just not worth it.

APRIL

Wait … what the fuck? THERE WAS NO APRIL! I fucking knew we hadn’t had a full year! Here’s the proof …

Or rather, here isn’t the proof because April never fucking existed. It can’t have existed or I would have blogged about it.

You fuckers stole my April!

I’m a bit cross about that.

MAY

All I did in May was give away a really cool book which, despite the cover, has no information in it about how to get laid by writing scripts.

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What a rotten swizz.

JUNE

Apparently, some insanely exciting things were happening in June … but I have no idea what they might have been.

My laptop had a bit of an accident. That was annoying.

laptop-exploding-battery-fireBut I fixed it. Sort of.

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What else happened?

Ooh, I wrote some stuff and edited some stuff and had some meetings and all sort of proper writing stuff. That was exciting.

I then went on to promote a writing development scheme thingy.

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What was exceptionally exciting about that is a writer friend of mine later told me she’d applied and been accepted onto the course – something she never would have known existed if I hadn’t mentioned it.

That makes me feel all warm and fuzzy. I love being vaguely useful occasionally.

Buoyed on by that, I promoted some free stuff. Which probably isn’t free any more, so … don’t bother clicking that link.

Assuming anyone’s still reading and is even clicking anything. Are you?

Really?

Why? Go do something more fun.

Oh, no, wait! This next post was my most popular post of the year. Still is.

I think.

MAN OF STEEL – 3 THINGS I TRY NOT TO PUT IN A SCRIPT

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JULY

July was simple. All I did in July was reveal the meaning of life and the meaning of illegal.

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I got both of them completely and utterly right too.

Because I’m awesome.

I totally rocked July.

AUGUST

I’m getting bored now. Anyone else getting bored?

August! What did I do in August?

NOTHING!

There was no August either.

Wait a minute … no April? No August? No months beginning with the letter A?

Hmm …

That video would probably be more relevant if it was actually about the letter A.

SEPTEMBER

There was a September! Since September doesn’t begin with the letter A, this completely proves my theory.

It fucking does!

In September I went to see Monsters University.

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Then I gave you writer-based fashion advice.

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And I rounded out the month by getting upset about a wine glass.

fu8bkhJesus.

OCTOBER

In October I had a letter from Linda Aronson, which was far politer than I deserved.

Then I wrote the first two parts of my fantastically successful Notes from the Other Side series; which was about my inept fumblings as a script editor for PERSONA.

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They were called Part One and Part Two. I’m original like that, I am. I was the first person ever to think of calling something part one and part two.

NOVEMBER

I’m really bored with this now. I’ve no idea why I do this every year, I mean what is the fucking point? Does anyone read this far? I will send a five pound note to the first person who quotes these three words in the comments:

Fresnel

Turpentine

Jamais vu

That’s a serious offer. I’ll send you a proper five pound note through the proper mail and everything if you’re the first person to copy and paste those three words into a comment.

And 12p to the first person who can use them in a sentence.

And now that I’ve (hopefully) successfully proved no one’s reading any more … on with November.

First up, Part Three of the Notes from the Other Side trilogy. I broke boundaries here by calling the third part Part Three. I also got a bit ranty about it all.

Sorry.

Especially to the person I referred to as a fucking twat; but to be fair. You were.

Or I was.

One of the two.

Possibly both.

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Then I talked about tailoring. It was in relation to an upcoming meeting … at which everyone behaved in almost exactly the way I hoped they wouldn’t.

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For some reason I then had a pop at actors who don’t afford my scripts the same respect as Shakespeare’s.

No, seriously. I can only assume I was heavily medicated at the time.

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And I finished the month by gushing about my love for a man. Well, eleven men. Twelve, as it turned out. Thirteen now.

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If you’re feeling particularly geeky, you can spot seven differences between this photo and the one uploaded in November. Although, I warn you now imaginary person who’s never going to fucking bother doing this … number four is almost impossible to spot.

DECEMBER

I began December by delivering my verdict of The Day of the Doctor … I fucking loved it. I know I fucking loved it because I wrote “I fucking loved it.”

You can’t argue with that kind of proof.

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Then I decided to tattoo something on my forehead so I wouldn’t forget it. This is the worst possible way of remembering stuff … mainly because it’s really fucking hard to see your own forehead.

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Don’t do this. Seriously, it’s silly.

And I finished off the year with a series of Christmas crackers – little bloglet mentions of things I either think are cool or just felt like mentioning:

  1. The Elephantom
  2. Totally Serialized (there’s a competition on this one – you can win free tickets!)
  3. Dead Elf
  4. Production Hell
  5. Kung Fury

And that was pretty much it in blogging terms.

Behind the scenes, this was an interesting year. It’s the first year for nearly a decade I haven’t had anything produced or released … and yet I probably earnt more this year than any previous year to date.

Apparently a writer can earn more money by not getting films made than by actually getting involved in all that icky and annoying shooting business.

Who knew?

At the beginning of the year, I made a conscious decision to write something for myself. Something I really, really wanted to write which I would then try to sell.

That didn’t happen.

Instead, I worked almost continuously on other people’s ideas with varying degrees of success.

I had some lovely meetings with some lovely people and at least one of them I didn’t completely screw up.

I got paid to write stuff I enjoyed writing for people who actually cared about the script and wanted to get it right … as opposed to caring about the shooting date (tomorrow) and wanting to get it finished … even if ‘finished’ means ‘nobody fucking cares how good it is, we just need some words’.

As an added extra bonus, a producer sent one of my scripts to a director whose work I really, really admire. I’ve no idea if that guy actually liked the script or not. Probably not, but he wanted to read it and therefore at least now knows who I am.

I’m the guy who’s script he (probably) didn’t like.

Unless he hasn’t read it yet. Which is entirely possible and extremely likely.

2014 already has some super cool awesome stuff lined up with a couple of projects lining up on the starting blocks and even a few lumbering asthmatically towards the final set of hurdles.

Beyond which are another set of even higher hurdles, because that’s what the whole writing gig’s about.

So bring it on 2014, do your worst!

Just nicely.

Please?

Categories: BBC, Bored, Career Path, Christmas Crackers, Industry Musings, My Way, Opportunity, Persona, Progress, Random Witterings, Rants, Sad Bastard, Someone Else's Way, Strippers vs. Werewolves, Things I've Learnt Recently, Two steps back, Writing and life | 16 Comments

Notes from the other side (Part Three)

THINGS WHICH PISSED ME OFF

 

DbChj

I know I was no great shakes as a script-editor. I know I probably pissed people off by giving them what they thought of as stupid notes. I’ve had those notes, I know what it feels like to send in a script thinking it’s amazing … only to feel like you’ve failed miserably because it’s not loved unconditionally.

Notes are part of the process. Rejection is part of the process. Even when a script is good, parts of it have to be rejected – this is just what happens. It happens to the best writers in the world, it’s going to happen to you.

How you deal with the notes is what sets you apart from other writers. The best writers on PERSONA dealt with the notes in a timely, imaginative manner, with good humour and professionalism. These were the majority of the writers – I loved reading your work, you were, and hopefully still are, wonderful.

But I was under a lot of pressure, working late into the night every night for no reward on something I didn’t believe in. Sometimes writers, good and bad, did things which made me really, really fucking angry.

If you did any of these things during the writing of PERSONA, it doesn’t make you a bad person or a bad writer. It doesn’t change how likely I am to hug you if I meet you in public+ or to buy you a drink^. I’m keeping these anonymous because I don’t want to point fingers or name names – I just want people to understand some of the additional pressures your note-giver might be under and how a writer’s attitude, behaviour or style might come across.

These are the things I found particularly irksome, the things I will be trying not to do to anyone giving me notes in future:

 

1. NON STANDARD FORMAT

Go Your Own Way

When you’re reading a lot of scripts very quickly, then you need to be able to read them quickly. Peering at a script trying to work out if the bit left-justified, halfway up the page in a narrow block is action, dialogue or an accident is just fucking annoying. Learning the craft means learning the format – a small army of people all have to be able to read this thing in order to make it. Standard format makes it easy for everyone, if you want to invent your own, write a novel.

I’m not talking here about things like when to use caps or when to underline stuff or whether you use passive voice or not – none of that shit matters, not really. Not writing dialogue which goes all the way across the page with the character names on the same line – that’s important. Don’t do shit like that.

Or shit like this:

Morgan

Morgan

Nathan

Morgan

confused

Morgan

You're Morgan too?

Nathan

Sorry, that's the limit of my German.

Morgan

Your name's not Morgan?

Nathan

Nathan thought Morgan was saying hello in German!

Nathan talks about himself in the third person.

Morgan

What?

Versus this:

                MORGAN
          Morgan.

                NATHAN
          Morgan!

                MORGAN
             (confused)
          You're Morgan too?

                NATHAN
          Sorry, that's the limit of my German.

                MORGAN
          Your name's not Morgan?

                NATHAN
          Nathan thought Morgan was saying 
          hello in German!

NOTE: Nathan talks about himself in the third person.

                 MORGAN
           What?

Okay, it’s still shit; but at least now it’s readable shit.

 

2. HARD TO USE FILES

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I don’t know if it’s still the case, but at that time CELTX didn’t play well with any other software. Scripts for PERSONA had to be put into the house style, and collated into a master document for the editor to assemble the appisodes. If I couldn’t export the script to anything, then I had to copy, paste and reformat or retype every script by hand.

Once you get past midnight, that becomes old really, really fast.

I know CELTX is free and is probably really fun/easy to write in … but (back then) the files it produced were completely fucking useless unless everyone on the production team switched to new software. That’s not going to happen. By all means use whatever software suits you, but deliver it in a format the rest of the production team can use/edit.

I apologise to the makers of CELTX if there was a simple way of exporting their files to something editable on other other software; but if there was I couldn’t find it. I fully accept this may be my failing, not theirs.

Still made my life needlessly more complicated though.

 

3. SCRIPT GURU TERMINOLOGY

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I come from a movie background, I think in three acts. Or rather, I talk in three acts. I actually think in four. The point is, three acts is an industry shorthand most people understand. Specific TV shows might have more or less acts and that’s great – you have to be able to use the terminology of the show. Myself and the producer/directors of PERSONA spoke in terms of three acts … so when I’d get replies to my notes from writers who talked in terms of whatever script book they’d read that week – it was difficult to translate.

I wasn’t just dealing with that one writer, I was dealing with up to nine at any one time. And when those nine are variously talking about 5 acts, 22 steps, 8 sequences or 16 keystone moments … I can’t keep up. I can’t really be expected to read every theory going and translate the prodcution team’s opinions into a different script language every fucking time. If those things help you write, then great – use them; but when you’re dealing with a note-giver who’s also dealing with eight other writers and a production team … just learn the common language.

Also, if you’re going to buy into your favourite script guru’s terminology, then please …

 

4. LEARN WHAT THE TERMINOLOGY MEANS

you keep using that wordAn inciting incident is an incident which incites. It should be both inciting and an incident. Two people talking about a third person’s shoes isn’t really either. Telling me it is because it comes on page x and your favourite script guru says that’s where the inciting incident always is doesn’t make it more inciting or incident-y. You can’t just point at random bits of script and declare that they’re inciting incidents in the same way you can’t point at a car tyre and declare it’s a carburettor.

Well you can, but it won’t make building a car any easier.

 

5. FINAL DRAFT

3u75m8Writing FINAL DRAFT on the title page of your script because you think you’ve done enough … yeah, don’t do that. I’ll tell you when it’s the final draft. It’s the final draft when it’s right, not when you get bored.

 

6. THE UNDERLYING CAUSE

Missing-the-PointOne script we had generated only one note – the protagonist wasn’t really in it. The main character didn’t appear in well over fifty percent of the appisodes – that’s not good. The writer disagreed and drew up a chart illustrating that the protagonist was actually in at least 75% of the appisodes.

Bear in mind here, some of these appisodes are a week apart. If your protagonist isn’t in two in a row, they won’t be seen for over a week. Also, there are four stories running consecutively, all mixed together in a different order on different days – if your protagonist isn’t in the appisode, the audience may not know which story this piece belongs to.

I rechecked the script and the writer was completely right – the protagonist was actually in 75% of the scenes. In the background, not speaking. The wallpaper was also in the background, that doesn’t make it a protagonist.

If someone can read your script and NOT NOTICE WHETHER THE PROTAGONIST IS PRESENT OR NOT, then you have a problem. It doesn’t actually matter if the reader is wrong – the problem is still there. The difference between an absent protagonist and one we didn’t notice is exactly the same.

Because, and here’s the thing, people have to film this. Cast members have to be scheduled – if the three of us didn’t notice her; maybe no one else will. Maybe no one will notice until the day of the shoot … and then we find the actor is in Tahiti.

Or something.

A lot of people have to read and UNDERSTAND your script in order to film it. If it’s important, make it stand out – make if noticable. If the note-giver is accusing you of not including the vital information you know is there, then don’t argue – just go back and make it stand out. Put it in bold if you have to.

 

7. UNDERSTAND WHAT CONSTITUTES A SCENE

where-the-fuck-am-i-lets-ask-that-statueEach new location is a new scene. This is fairly basic stuff. The reason each new location is a new scene is because the entire crew have to move to a new place. That’s a lot of people. Okay, so you can have a continuous move from one room to the next, assuming the location has a kitchen next to a lounge (or whatever); but if the lounge is on the first floor and the kitchen is in the basement then a continuous scene is going to involve a lot of stairs. In a 30 second episode … there’s no fucking time for stairs!

There isn’t really time to move from one room to another unless they’re talking while they’re walking.

We had quite a few occurrences of:

She enters through the front door, walks up the stairs and into the bedroom.

That’s your entire appisode, right there.

It gets even worse when people write things like:

He follows her across the bridge, along the street, past the shops and watches 
her climb the steps to her front door.

What the fuck?

Unless this is a really small bridge, with shops on it, which are also really small and the flat is above the shop which is less than four feet away from the place the character started … then it’s at least three scenes. At least.

But, hey, you know … everyone has to learn. Most of these writers had never had anything produced, so we have to be kind and make allowances. So in this case, I did. I reformated it to separate scenes and explained, politely, all about camera set ups and what constitutes a new location.

HINT: AN ENTIRE CITY IS NOT A LOCATION AND THEREFORE NOT SUITABLE FOR A SCENE HEADING

But here’s the key thing – when you’ve written something unfilmable, had it pointed out and explained to you and had it properly reformatted at great time-expense by the script-editor … don’t submit the next draft WITH THE SAME FUCKING MISTAKES IN IT.

That’s quite annoying, that is.

 

8. PAGE COUNT

the-countOne page equals one minute of screen time.

Roughly.

Not always, but roughly.

The only way to know for sure is to read the script out loud and act out all the parts.

Even then, you will be wrong because actors love dramatic pauses and directors love slow panning shots. But, in general, one page equals one minute.

So if, for example, the show you’re writing for has at that point expanded it’s appisodes to a minute and a half … you need to submit a page and a half of script.

Roughly.

A page … maybe. Two pages … yeah, if it’s all fast paced banter.

6 pages?

No.

Really, no.

Most importantly, and this is really, really important, after having been told the appisode is only a minute and a half long and then having submitted 6 pages of script … don’t claim it’s a directorial issue.

It really fucking isn’t.

Also, when the script editor asks you to cut it down, saying “I don’t want to because it will lose intensity” just isn’t going to fly. I guaran-fucking-tee it will lose more intensity if it’s filmed as is and the editor randomly chops four and a half minutes off the end.

 

9. DEVELOPMENT HELL

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If you’re the same person who did both of the above, don’t fucking go on Twitter and claim you’re “Stuck in development hell” because you don’t know what a scene is or how page count translates into screen time.

You’re not stuck in development hell, you’re just a fucking twat.

This is draft two. Draft fucking two! Draft 200 is development hell. Not draft 2, especially when it’s your fucking fault for not knowing how to write a fucking script.

And guess what, we know what Twitter is! And we can read. You just said that to our faces.

If it’s that bad, just give up. Say you don’t agree that one page equals one minute or that a bridge, a street, a shop and a flat is more than one scene. Tell us that, call us names and just fuck off. Or convince us we’re wrong.

Either would be fine … complaining about it on Twitter is just …

Well, it’s a mite annoying.

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I could go on. I have gone on. And on. But I think that’s enough, don’t you?

The essence of these last three posts, in case you hadn’t guessed, is I didn’t really like being a script editor; but (briefly, sort of) being one gave me a much better understanding of what it’s like to be giving notes on a script which is going into production. Not just an opinion on a friend’s spec script, which is a different thing; but on something which is actually going to be filmed very soon.

Essentially, what I learnt is: it’s really fucking hard, frequently frustrating and mostly unrewarding … but completely necessary. Those of you who do it on a regular basis as your profession – I salute you. It’s a hard job, congratulations on being good at it.

I’m not and I’m not doing it again.

Probably.

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+Very unlikely, I’m not one of life’s huggers.

^Quite likely.

Categories: My Way, Persona, Rants, Software, Someone Else's Way, Things I've Learnt Recently | 7 Comments

When is it okay to illegally download media?

Never. It’s never okay. It’s illegal. That, by definition, means it’s unlawful or not allowed.

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Okay, so it’s never legal to illegally download a movie or song or TV show; but when is it morally acceptable to do so?

Never.

It’s fucking illegal, I thought we’d covered that?

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Illegally downloading anything is stealing. It belongs to someone else, someone who doesn’t want you to have it for free.

This is something which drives me fucking mad – people don’t think of it as stealing. It fucking is! It’s not yours, you’ve taken it without the owner’s consent – you’ve fucking stolen it!

I’m not saying you shouldn’t do it. Do whatever your conscience allows; but at least have the fucking balls or even the basic intelligence to admit/realise you’ve stolen it.

I keep hearing the same argument on radio or TV – some fuckwit admits to a reporter that he illegally downloads media and then justifies it with something like:

“Well, if DVDs weren’t so expensive I wouldn’t have to steal them.”

Double-facepalm

Yeah, good point. You know what else is expensive? Ferraris. Ferraris are really fucking expensive – do you steal them? Houses, they’re pretty expensive too, why not steal them?

Oh wait, you have a right to possess Season 16 of The Simpsons for free, do you? A human right? Is that enshrined in your country’s constitution? Or in the Ten Commandments? Thou shalt be afforded immediate access to a shitty cam version of the latest blockbusters? Where does it fucking say you shouldn’t have to pay for something which doesn’t belong to you?

Again, I’m not saying you shouldn’t do it. I’m not saying I don’t do it. I’m just saying call it what it fucking is – stealing.

You know what really pisses me off though? People won’t pay for a DVD but go and buy a knocked off version. They’re not prepared to pay the people who made the film, but they’re prepared to pay the people who stole it.

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That’s fucking madness.

Oh, but it’s cheaper, is it? Oh well, that’s alright then.

Paying someone to steal a car for you is much more acceptable than stealing it yourself.

Except, oh no … it really fucking isn’t.

The problem is, stealing media has become so widespread that no one even realises it’s a problem.

I was in a meeting about a TV thing recently and the producer wanted me to watch a particular show as research.

Have you seen it?

No.

Oh. Maybe there’s some way you could watch it somehow?

I don’t think so, it’s not on any more, is it?

No. If there was some way you could watch it, it would be very useful.

I don’t think there is.

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The stupid thing here is he clearly wanted me to download it and watch it; but he couldn’t actually tell me to steal another TV company’s product, because it’s fucking illegal.

I did download/steal it. It was shit. But that’s beside the point.

Or rather, it isn’t.

I’ve written some bad films which were very heavily torrented. The people who stole those films then complained about how bad they were. To me.

Fuck. Off.

Writing those films was a traumatic experience. It was every bit as painful for me to write as it was for you to watch. And I’m not even being compensated for that pain!

Worse that that, some guy in a market somewhere is getting paid my nerve-soothing money.

del boy G1

How is that fair?

Well it’s not and life’s not fair. So it’s just tough shit.

But at least have the common fucking courtesy to man or woman the fuck up and admit that you stole it. You didn’t torrent it or share it or download it – you fucking stole it.

Is there ever a time when stealing stuff is perhaps not quite stealing?

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I don’t know – maybe. Maybe if you pay for Sky Movies and the film you want to watch is on there, but only on the day you’re not at home and (for some reason) you have no way of recording it and you’re going to be out of the country so Sky Go doesn’t work and (for some other fucking reason) you’re not capable of setting up a simple fucking VPN to get around that … then maybe, just maybe it’s alright to steal a film you’ve technically already paid for so long as you don’t actually keep it forever?

images (2)

Or if you buy the DVD but want to watch it on your phone but haven’t got any way of ripping the DVD to your phone so you steal a copy for your phone. Is that stealing? Yeah, but … maybe that’s understandable/allowable?

Maybe.

Or if a show is on the BBC and you’ve technically paid for it with your licence fee and you want to watch it while you’re temporarily abroad but forgot to download it on the iPlayer before you left and still can’t work out how a VPN works?

Is that still stealing?

Or is that just circumventing an annoying process which stops you viewing the content you’ve paid for at the time and in the manner you wish to view it?

notsure

I don’t know.

All I do know is stealing is stealing and stealing is wrong. You may choose to do it, but it’s still stealing and it’s still wrong. Doing it makes you a thief, that may or may not be acceptable to you, it’s not for me to judge because I don’t own a snazzy wig. It’s up to you do whatever the hell you like; but thinking it’s anything but stealing just makes you a fucking idiot.

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Categories: Bored, Industry Musings, Random Witterings, Rants, Sad Bastard | 2 Comments

2012

Every year, for reasons I can’t quite remember, I do a post which rounds up exactly what happened to me over the past twelve months. To me, these recap posts seem interminably long, dull and quite pointless … but for some reason they always get read more than the original posts did. I have two theories to explain this odd behaviour:

  1. The majority of you wait until the end of the year so you can get the whole  sordid tale in one go.
  2. The majority of you are fucking mental.
  3. I said two theories, why would there be a three?

But with that in mind, let’s  begin. I promise this list will be as dull and as pointless as ever. We begin, in …

JANUARY

I began the year seven days after everyone else because I’m fucking hardcore, despite having been teetotal for 22 years now.

Maybe I just forgot the new year had begun?

Either way, I began with an explanation of one of my favourite writing techniques, THE BOX.

This technique is so awesome and so useful, not only have I not used it since; but I have no recollection of ever using it in the first place. I’m assuming I just made it up.

You know, lied.

Then I had a moment of genius. I know it was genius because Steven Moffat said it was. On Twitter. This is as close to a fact as you can possibly get without using things like set-squares and alphabet-heavy theorems.

This post garnered more views than my arse did that time I accidentally left it in Trafalgar Square. What’s more, people seemed to  like it. It wasn’t really anything much to do with writing and had more to do with my inability to repair a car … but it’s quite funny.

Essentially, I explained How to beat procrastination and was generally awesome while I was doing it. Assuming ‘awesome’ is a synonym for ‘a bit sad’.

You should read it.

I’ll wait.

I immediately failed to capitalise on this massive new following by bloging about some confused Thundercats and rounded off January by having a film I had almost nothing to do with, Stalker, released on DVD.

FEBRUARY

And lo, the second month did dawn and lower, I did shout a bit about baby-earrings, hotel sink-plugs, iTunes and shitty writing advice.

Ten days later, I was still pretty upset about people charging writers for bad advice and gave my own bad advice for free. This time about dual time-period script writing. I have since ignored every single one of these ‘rules’ … with catastrophic results.

I should learn to listen to me more.

Or at least learn to read the stuff I write.

I also got upset about Tuesdays and stupidity.

Decided Rosie Claverton is ace …

… and then drowned in bullshit.

MARCH

I watched Deviation in various international locations.

Wondered when The Descendants was going to end.

Showed you the quad for Strippers vs. Werewolves

… which is far better than the film itself.

And then went on a trailer frenzy for season three of Persona:

I finished March by getting into the quarter-finals of The Sitcom Mission.

APRIL

Don’t know about you, but I’m bored now. I’m also full of duck and empty of sleep. I might give up at any minute.

April!

April was the month … some stuff happened.

Stuff a bit like …

Pointed out ONCE IN A LIFETIME OPPORTUNITIES happened fairly regularly, best not to get too upset about them.

Explained the difference between a character being likeable and people fucking right off with their stupid fucking notes about kittens and fucking rainbows. Or something.

Swore I’d fucking show you all by explaining why script format was important. This would be it, the definitive guide to every aspect of script format explaining why I’m right and you’re all fucking wrong.

Which isn’t egotistical at all, it’s just the way of the world.

And then there was the Strippers vs. Werewolves première.

This post is well worth reading. It’s a master-class in how to blog about the première of your own film when you think it’s shit, without mentioning how shit you think the film is; but instead mentioning sausages. A lot.

Seriously, go read it. See if you can find any mention of how shit the film is.

They were fucking awesome sausages, mind.

After the première, the film came out in the cinemas because this is what happens.

Here, watch the trailer. Just because, alright? Just fucking watch it so I can have a rest from all this fucking typing.

MAY

I began May by making good on my promise to explain every aspect of script format. I started with the title page … and then gave up. For ever. I mean … what’s  the fucking point?

The 7th of May was Me Day when the whole world revolved around me for 24 hours.

It wasn’t my birthday or anything, it was just a day when the whole world gathered round to worship me and celebrate how amazing I am. Or was. You may not remember it because I think you were temporarily dead that day.

Ooh, this post on Script Trajectory was quite good. Must have been ill that day.

The papers in May did a mighty fine job of promoting the BluRay/DVD release of Strippers vs. Werewolves by pretending not to know something they patently do and being all sniffy about it in a headline grabbing way.

I can’t be fucked with this, I’m knackered. I’ll finish it off tomorrow.

JUNE

Hooray! It’s tomorrow!

For me, probably not for you.

June! The month of … more stuff.

Surprisingly little stuff, actually.

All I did was make a mis-step and bitch about people asking me perfectly reasonable questions.

Fuck you, June, you suck.

JULY

July was the month I was recruited by a clandestine organisation to invade a nation of pixie warmongers who live in an old forgotten tea cup behind my garden shed. I was given a spud gun, a nifty secret hat and a licence to break wind in public and sent off to murder pixies. After a series of, frankly, quite dull adventures involving grit and teaspoons, I found myself in Yakatang (the capital of the pixie nation, it looks a bit like Harlow only not quite so grim and with a few extra pixies). I was all set to assassinate King Ian (Yakatang’s chief biscuit maker and all round bastard) when I realised the whole incident was merely the result of a dodgy kipper that morning and I had actually invaded Lakeland, naked save for a pink Santa’s hat and brandishing a small clockwork frog.

Come to think of it, that might not have happened either.

I can’t really remember July, can you?

Oh wait, yes I can. In July I …

Went to the BBC TV Writers’ Festival, met all sorts of splendid people and burbled insanely about The Dukes of Hazzard at every opportunity.

I also said Fuck You, Mr Arnopp.

… and then got all serious with some musings on disability in scripts. That one’s worth reading again.

AUGUST

In August I declared myself FREE to whatever the fuck I want, any time I fucking want to do it!

Then did this …

… which probably wasn’t worth the effort.

Then I watched The Dark Knight Rises … which was worth even less effort.

I did fuck all for a couple of weeks and then I had a serious think about the difference between horizontal and vertical careers. Basically, producers can opt for horizontal careers, scriptwriters can’t.

I rounded off August by giving away literally hundreds of literal pounds … because I’m either nice or a complete fucking mug.

HELLO-is-it-tea-youre-looking-for-Mug

SEPTEMBER

Slipped off to the secret writing island for interesting conversations about ‘the first ever genital piercing’ and ‘how to wake someone up with a spoon’ before proclaiming I had a new regime … and then failing to do anything about it.

IMAG0891

Bigged up Helen Smith‘s new book The Miracle Inspector, because she’s all kinds of lovely and I felt like it.

The Miracle Inspector by Helen Smith

I paused for a bit longer and dropped in a secret plug for Jason Arnopp’s new book without anyone knowing I’d done it.

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Hmm … it kind of looks like I spent the entire month on my secret writing island. Wonder if that was true?

Ooh! I got really shouty about people giving bad advice!

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Which was probably uncalled for. Except it wasn’t! Don’t listen to the cunts!

And finally I rambled a bit about changing writers/directors/producers on a film. Which is just fucking annoying, so stop it.

OCTOBER

For fuck’s sake, are you still reading? Go out, get some air. Have some fun or otherwise do something more useful than your time.

Like what I am.

October was the month I …

Rambled about recycling jokes.

BillHicksDenisLeary

Realised I shouldn’t be allowed to write horror movies because I don’t really like ’em.

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Wrote a long, boring, yet strangely fascinating blog about file names.

And then gave away a free BluRay of some shit or other.

Here’s a photo of me with a spoon.

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Why? Why the fuck not?

NOVEMBER

Thank fuck this is nearly over. I’m not doing this again, I’m bored shitless, fuck knows how you feel.

Met up with some writers …

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… and talked about Pets and Zombies. A subject which is nothing to do with either, but just more dull talk about scripts.

And then I saw Looper and explained the RULES OF THE UNIVERSE. There are surprisingly few of them.

Wait, is that all I did in November?

Cool. Let’s hope December was as pointless and then I can go and get some food. I’m having a curry, in case you cared.

DECEMBER

Got beaten up by a four year old.

Explained why fighting naked isn’t always sexy and having your arse and boobs on the same side definitely isn’t.

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Somehow managed to defend iPhones while slagging off myself. How the fuck did that happen?

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And then promoted a festival because someone asked me to and it was easier than thinking of anything new to write.

totally serialized

And really, that was it. That was the whole year.

Fuck me.

I did do quite a lot of proper writing too, I just didn’t really talk about it much. I script edited hours and fucking hours of Persona, wrote far too much of it and worked on multiple drafts of seven features … so not too bad.

But not good enough.

I will do better next year.

Which is in about five hours’ time.

If you want proper stats and all kinds of flashy animation about all the stuff I blogged about this year, then you need help.

Or this link.

Hope 2012 was super-sexy-awesome for you, now stop reading this, go out and get pissed.

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Categories: Bored, Career Path, Festivals, Industry Musings, My Way, Opportunity, Persona, Progress, Publicity, Random Witterings, Rants, Sad Bastard, Sitcom Mission, Someone Else's Way, Stalker, Strippers vs. Werewolves, Things I've Learnt Recently, Two steps back, Writing and life | Leave a comment

Take my advice

You know what I hate most about writing advice?

All of it.

Okay, so that’s not actually true; but statistically, given most people spewing advice onto the Internet (like the contents of a stomach filled with rancid butter, live snails and facial hair) have no idea what they’re talking about, it’s as close to all of it as makes no odds.

I get a little fucking annoyed at reading how this person says you should always do that or that person says pro-writers do the other … when this person is wrong and that person is a fucking idiot and neither of them have ever written, sold or in any way had produced a script of any description what-so-fucking-ever.

And no, I’m not saying you have to be able to do in order to teach. Of course that’s bullshit and doing and teaching aren’t the same thing … but so much of this shit is just plain wrong.

The worst part, for me, is the UK ‘gurus’ spout stuff they’ve found in someone else’s blog, book or seminar which only applies to America. It certainly isn’t fucking true in the UK and will do NOTHING to help you in your career.

The UK isn’t America. They have different flags, anthems and views on being polite to strangers. Americans have customer service, the UK has disdain. We are different. The rules you’ve heard regurgitated time and time again by people who have NEVER WORKED IN EITHER FUCKING INDUSTRY are just plain wrong.

Or at best, unnecessary.

I mentioned this to a friend recently and he felt it was some kind of Darwinian Gauntlet new writers had to run. If they can safely navigate the utter pointlessness of the bullshit bandied around by people who have NO FUCKING CLUE HOW THE INDUSTRY THEY DON’T FUCKING WORK IN works, then they deserve a career for having common fucking sense.

I’m not sure I agree with that.

I’m not convinced I shouldn’t point some fingers and jump up and down.

The problem is, some of these people, the ones who have NO FUCKING INDUSTRY EXPERIENCE WHATSOEVER, also have a large and rabid following built around some kind of weird brand-of-bullshit loyalty. I feel like maybe naming and shaming is tantamount to sitting down with the deeply religious and explaining how evolution really works.

Yes, the truth might break on them like the glorious dawn of an age of rationality … but more likely it will just leave them sobbing in disillusionment and wondering what life holds for them now.

So I (probably) won’t.

Instead, I’ll just say this:

Believe half of what you read and none of THE SHIT WHICH POURS OUT OF THE FINGERS OF PEOPLE WHO’VE NEVER, EVER BEEN ANYWHERE NEAR ANYONE WITH ANY INDUSTRY CONNECTIONS OF ANY DESCRIPTION EVER IN THEIR ENTIRE FUCKING LIVES AND ARE COMPLETE FUCKWADS WITH NO CLUE, HOPE OR REASON TO EXIST.

Just, you know … be sceptical out there, people.

Categories: Rants, Someone Else's Way | 10 Comments

The Dark Knight Rises

I wrote all this out once … then deleted it, because … well, who cares? I mean, really, so what? I have an opinion on a film which is the same as some people’s and different to others’. There are lots of opinions out there; one more seems a bit pointless especially when we’re talking about a film which, ultimately, just wasn’t for me.

But then, people started asking me what I thought and said they were interested in what I’d deleted and Twitter proved to be the most annoying way of conveying my thoughts … so I’ve written it all out again for their benefit.

Blame them.

The original post went something like this:

I’m finally able to talk about The Dark Knight Rises. I couldn’t for a while, even though I saw it on opening night, because I went on my own and Mandy was very keen to see it.

After watching it, I really felt there was nothing I could say which wouldn’t completely ruin the film for her and possibly even dissuade her from going; which wouldn’t be fair when she’d enjoyed the other two films so much.

So I kept quiet and I bided my time.

I said nothing anywhere, either online or off, despite watching everyone wade into a mass-debate (the best kind of debate) on Twitter and reading reviews which range from BEST FILM EVER to WORST PIECE OF SHIT IN HISTORY. I’ve read a lot of reviews from people I respect, wondering if we’d actually seen the same film because nothing they described chimed with my experience.

Well, that’s all over now. I can speak. Mandy’s been to see it and she has her own, completely unbiased, opinion. I’m in no danger of ruining anything for her.

You, on the other hand, might well be a different matter.

SPOILER ALERT – EVERYTHING BELOW THIS PARAGRAPH IS A TEDIOUSLY LONG-WINDED AND IN-DEPTH RANT ABOUT MY EXPERIENCE OF WATCHING THE DARK KNIGHT RISES. THERE ARE SPOILERS, BOTH IN TERMS OF PLOT AND ENJOYMENT … IT’S A REALLY LONG, PROBABLY BORING, RAMBLE.

READ ON AT YOUR PERIL.

So, Mandy’s seen the film and her opinion is … she fervently wishes I’d spoilt the film for her and dissuaded her from going.

She actually hates me for allowing her to see the film and seems to have taken it as some indication of me not loving her any more.

Which I do.

A lot.

So what, in my opinion (and that’s all that it is, not facts) is wrong with the film?

Well … pretty much all of it.

I just found the whole thing immensely tedious. Nothing happens for long stretches at a time and when it does, it barely makes sense. The film is nearly three hours long … yet feels like there’s not enough time for any character development. There are dozens of characters, most of whom could easily be snipped out without changing the film at all … apart from making it shorter.

Bruce has given up being Batman because … well, I’m not really sure. Apparently, because there isn’t any organised crime in Gotham any more.

I struggled with this concept for most of the first act because it just doesn’t fit in with my idea of who Batman is and who he seems to be in the first two films. He became Batman because he’s obsessed with his parents’ death and wanted to avenge them/stamp out crime.

Except, apparently that’s not right.

Apparently he only wanted to stamp out organised crime … and the random street violence which killed his parents isn’t really important.

Huh?

Afterwards, I realised the mistake I was making here – this isn’t Batman, this is Christopher Nolan’s Batman and looking back, I suppose he doesn’t really fight random street violence. I kind of assumed he did in-between fighting the Scarecrow and the Joker, but maybe not.

To be honest, I’m a little fuzzy on whether or not his parents were actually murdered by Ra’s al Ghul. I guess if they were (a fact he may or may not have found out at the end of Batman Begins, depending on whether it actually happened or I’m imagining it) then once organised crime has finished he’d be quite happy to let other people’s parents get murdered in random muggings.

Doesn’t seem right to me, but okay, let’s go with this.

So Bruce stopped being Batman eight years ago and with no Batman, he’s got no reason to be Bruce Wayne either, so he just sits in his giant house and mopes.

Hmm … pretty certain in the first two films, as in the comics, his defining characteristic is suppressed rage. I guess that rage has gone now? So he’s just moping.

But then Alfred says Bruce is just waiting for the chance to become Batman again. Um, right. So he’s obsessively keeping up with his training so he’ll be ready when he’s needed?

Nope.

So … he’s not waiting for the chance to become Batman again?

Or he is, but only mentally not physically?

His leg’s fucked – cool, that’ll make it really, really hard for him to become Batman again. He even goes and has a physical so we get a scene where a doctor explains to us in graphic detail why he CAN NEVER BE BATMAN EVER AGAIN.

Except it doesn’t actually work out like that.

Once he decides to become Batman again, he fits a magic electric brace and it’s as if his leg was never fucked. Which I would kind of buy if he wore it all the time, or limped when he took it off … but does he really wear it when he’s in bed, fucking Miranda Tate or lying in a prison cell stripped of all his Bat-gadgets? Is it a permanent, one shot cure for having a fucked leg? What’s the point of setting up this immense obstacle to him becoming Batman … only to have the obstacle instantly removed with a magic cure? It’s as if his leg were never damaged and it’s never, ever mentioned again. You know what that’s the same as? It’s exactly the same as not bothering to give him a fucked leg in the first place. I mean, why bother? If all it adds to the film is length … seriously, why bother?

Similarly his broken back, which I had no idea how they were going to fix in the time available … okay, so we later found out it wasn’t broken; it was just a bit bent. Someone else wanders in, pops his vertebrae back into place … and wanders off again. There was absolutely no point in (not) breaking his back. If you left out the (not) back breaking, you would have EXACTLY THE SAME FILM.

Just shorter.

But wait!

He also loses his entire fortune!

In a way which I don’t entirely understand because, apparently, if terrorists break into the stock exchange and falsify your credentials in front of thousands of witnesses, the police and the TV cameras … that’s legal. It stands. No one thinks that’s a problem.

Hmm.

But, oh no! Bruce is going to get kicked out of the manor and have all his toys confiscated and they’re going to find out he’s Batman and how will he deal with this?

Quite easily, as it happens; because although he goes broke and gets all his assets confiscated … they let him keep the house. And all his secrets and toys. Phew, that was lucky – there was almost some drama there.

There’s a good lesson here though – an obstacle is only an obstacle if the hero struggles to overcome it. If someone else does it for him or he just puts on a magic-leg-thing … not really an obstacle.

So Bruce becomes Batman again … because … well, just because.

And here we go!

This is the exciting bit!

The return of Batman after 8 years away!

This is going to be epic!

We know it’s going to be epic because a policeman tells us it’s going to be one hell of a show! And here’s Batman! He’s riding a bike! He’s punched someone … and then he rides off.

Oh.

Was that it?

Batman on a bike doing the ‘jump the car transporter’ thing? Really? That’s the big entrance?

And almost instantaneous exit?

This kind of reminded me of Batman Returns – you have this hugely dynamic character with a cape which looks awesome in motion … and his entrance, the first time you see him in that film, is … walking around a corner.

Walking.

Wow.

Two rules for Batman I felt the current series really understood:

  1. Never let anyone get a good look at him
  2. Never have him walking

He should strike from the shadows, be only half seen, a half-glimpsed, terrifying menace.

Batman Begins, The Dark Knight … he’s this kinetic ball of awesomeness who melts into shadows and appears and disappears at will.

The Dark Knight Rises – he tends to walk a lot. Sometimes he runs into the shadows, comes out in the Bat, fires a, largely ineffective, gun which goes ‘pop’ … and then comes back out for some more walking; but mostly he just strolls around the town.

Part of what I want from a Batman film is awesome action set-pieces. I want character and believability and struggle and arcs and all that stuff … but I also want Batman to be super cool and kick arse.

In this film:

  • He rides a bike!
  • He jumps off a step and punches some faceless thugs … who are apparently no ordinary thugs, despite having the amazing abilities to get knocked out with a single punch and miss EVERYTHING they shoot at with machine guns.
  • He walks into some tunnels. Okay, so he does a little bit of popping out of the dark at people, but mostly it’s just walking.
  • He has a (crap) fist fight with Bane.

Batman is a bit rubbish here, which I suppose was the point since all his joints are fucked (or possibly electrically activated) and until a few hours ago he was really skinny and barely able to stand (but as soon as he shaved off his beard he put on a couple of stone and beefed up) Now he’s … well, he just walks into a room and gets beaten up in a really half arsed fight. Bane can’t really be bothered with him, Batman doesn’t bother using any of the fighting techniques he learnt in the first two films … he just ambles around, mostly face-first into fists.

Oh no, Batman’s fallen!

Which would be shocking, if he hadn’t started fallen.

I mean, he was broken, he fixed himself with electrickery … only to get broken again and then fixed again by someone else. Did we need both of those? Is it not better to have a character start in one state and fall to a different state? Should plot points really have the word ‘again’ after them?

But wait, he’s not done! Later on he comes back and …

  • Walks around a bit!
  • Decorates a bridge!

With a fiery Bat-Signal because he felt that was the best use of his time when there’s a giant fucking neutron bomb about to go off. I guess he wants people to know he’s coming.

Oh no, hang on, that wouldn’t make sense – they’d just blow up the bomb, wouldn’t they? I mean, come on, it’s only got a couple of hours left now.

No, apparently not.

So Batman’s back and he walks up to Gordon, then walks up to Blake, then walks up to Bane and has another half-arsed fist fight while thousands of extras around him get into a proper, full on ruck.

This is the big action scene by the way, a fist fight. Again.

And then he flies a helicopter while other people do the action bits. And then he’s dead. Well, the Batman is at least.

And that’s all the action Batman’s allowed.

  • Riding a bike.
  • Walking.
  • Punching.
  • Flying a helicopter.

As Bruce Wayne he didn’t fare much better. For some reason he put a tracking device in his mother’s pearls … which since master cat-burglar Selina Kyle didn’t notice and didn’t take the box, must have been actually inside one of the pearls.

Huh?

Bruce’s mother’s pearls are so precious to him he destroys one by drilling it out and hiding a transmitter inside?

Really?

Later on he fucks Miranda Tate because … he can, I guess. Because that’s what Bruce does when he’s out of the public eye and doesn’t need to keep up his playboy persona … he just has casual sex with a woman he’s met twice. I guess even Batman gets horny occasionally … but did we need to see it? Again, if you took it out of the film, would it actually make a difference? Apart from to the length? And to the general ‘making sense’ part?

And that fucking prison leap of faith thing. Jesus. First time you see the faceless-prison-guy jump, you can clearly see the rope is holding him back. It’s too short and goes tight before he gets there.

Ah, so the secret is to remove the rope.

Bruce goes up, he’ll work this out straight away because Bruce is Batman. He even tests the rope and looks dubiously at the distance – he’s not stupid.

Oh, apparently he is.

Several attempts later and I’m waiting for Batman to work out something I’ve known for about half an hour now. I don’t really want to watch Batman struggle to work out the obvious.

And what the fuck was that prison anyway? How does that work? Can anyone just wander in and leave a prisoner there?

Alfred has two roles in this film. To start with he’s there to tell Bruce things he already knows. You used to do this, you used to do that, you did this, remember? After he gets bored of delivering endless clunky exposition, he bursts into tears until he fucks off … and doesn’t bother coming back until there’s some more sobbing needed at the end. If you took Alfred out of this film … you’d have exactly the same film. Just drier. And shorter.

Selina Kyle is awesome. Sometimes. Other times she’s a bit wet. Depends on what the scene calls for really. The whole blank slate thing just didn’t ring true – I mean, really? She doesn’t know anyone who can get her a fake passport? She can’t find anyone who looks like her and steal a passport long enough to leave the country? She can’t just steal one expensive thing, sell it and then fuck off? If you took her out of the film … someone else would have to get Bruce’s fingerprints for the robbery-which-doesn’t-make-sense (at least to me, I’ll happily admit I don’t understand financial things) and then … well, you’d need someone else for the random and unlikely ‘love’ scene in the café. That could just as easily have been someone else, given how little affection Selina and Bruce showed for each other throughout … and given Bruce fucked someone else halfway through their courtship.

Blake also has two functions in the script – that lovely twist reveal at the end, which was great and … to fail at everything, continuously throughout the film. He fails to get a man to move a mixer, he fails to nab the criminals at the Selina/random businessman fingerprint trade, he fails to protect the Commissioner at the hospital after failing to throw away his gun (he looks at his gun, he’s disgusted with having killed someone, so he throws it away … then immediately picks up a bigger one), he fails to get the cops out of the sewer and then he fails to rescue the kids – a mission he was given because … just to keep him out of the way, I guess. Pretty much the same way the Special Forces guys told him to stay and ‘look after’ the Wayne Enterprises board so he wouldn’t get shot when they did. The reward for all this failure is, he gets to be the new Batman. Hooray! Because apparently all you need to be Batman is anger … unless you actually are Batman, in which case all you need is shit loads of money and the ability to mope in your room for 8 years.

Actually, let’s be fair to Blake – he does have one really important skill. He can deduce Bruce Wayne is Batman because they share an angry fake smile … as opposed to deducing Bruce Wayne also had dead parents. That’s pretty fucking amazing bit of deducting there. Hmm … that man’s smiling, Batman never smiles, therefore … holy unlikely assumption, Batman!

Except, hang on, Bruce isn’t angry any more, he’s mopey. So surely Blake would take one look and realise he’d made a mistake? And why did Alfred let him in? Blake shows up, demands to see Bruce. Alfred says no. Blake hints at a Dent connection and Alfred immediately lets him in? Really? Alfred is that bad at keeping Bruce’s secrets?

Commissioner Gordon turns out to be the only person in the film who doesn’t know Bruce is Batman which makes him look fairly fucking stupid. He does have the only action sequence in the film though, so he’s not that badly served … although it does take him FIVE FUCKING MONTHS to decide he should try and work out which truck has got the bomb in it.

The bomb he knows is going to explode in five months.

That’s some pretty dynamic police-action there.

He didn’t even bother telling anyone in the outside world – I mean, no one could think of a way to communicate with anyone? No phone calls, no mobile phones … okay, so maybe ALL the phone lines were cut and ALL the cell towers were smashed or de-powered but, no semaphore across the river from a building, no Morse code mirror-flashing, no pigeons, no firework rockets with messages tied to them … no one could think of any way of telling the military what was actually going on?

And then there’s pretty police-uniform-man. Foley, was it? He has some scenes. He’s snarky at the beginning, then he’s sarcastic, then he’s fucking clueless, then he gets scared and hides in his house until Gordon comes and knocks on his door “Come out and play!” says Gordon. “No, don’t want to.” says Foley. Now be honest, did you care whether this guy came out to play or not? He does anyway and gets killed. Guess what happens if you take his character out of the film?

Yup.

Nothing.

Except shortening it a bit.

Miranda Tate turns out to be a villain! This was a true shock because … well, it’s so irrelevant. And in the process she also turns Bane into a completely irrelevant pussy. In fact, he’s so irrelevant he’s idly killed with one (massive) bullet just to get him out of the way. Once he’s gone, Miranda (who’s actually Talia … who in movie terms, you didn’t know existed) can do the things Bane would have done had Miranda not been in the film. Guess what happens if you take Miranda Talia out of the film?

No, not nothing!

Something!

You have a (slightly) more satisfying end for the villain as opposed to a “Ha ha! He’s not the real villain, the real villain is someone you don’t care about; but Bruce did fuck earlier, so she must be important!”

On top of all these there’s a businessman, the businessman’s friend who looks very similar to the scarecrow, the scarecrow who’s making people (for some reason) walk on ice (which is both thin and instantly reforms), Lucius Fox who doesn’t really do anything either, the Mayor – he gets blown up for whaving really pretty eyes.

All of these people are given screen time, none of them actually serve any useful purpose.

The businessman hires Bane to do some stuff that he was going to do anyway and hires Selina to do some stuff which Bane could have hired her to do, the businessman’s friend … just is. Lucius half takes over from Alfred, and helpfully puts all the weapons in one place so Bane can steal them easily. The Mayor … well, you’ve got to have a Mayor.

Although when he gets blown up, no one notices.

Then you have the slavering hordes of criminals who get broken out of Blackgate prison so they can … never be mentioned again. That was a worthwhile scene.

Oh, and don’t forget the hundreds of police officers who walk really slowly towards Bane’s crack, machine gun firing mercenaries … who only manage to hit three cops.

Three!

With machine guns!

The power goes out in Gotham City! But not the power for the TVs, just the street lights. Or maybe they don’t? People looked like they were burning stuff to stay warm … but maybe they weren’t?

Bane captures a flying helicopter-Bat just like the one Batman has! But doesn’t use it. We know he has one because we see another one at the end, one Bruce had fixed the software on.

Which is a shame, because that Bat-helicopter thing can travel at half the speed of sound!

It can carry two people … but struggles to pick up a bomb, so I guess that bomb must have weighed a fair bit. Maybe that Bat-helicopter thing could actually break the sound barrier if it was unbombed! Shame it didn’t have the same missiles on it as the Bat Pod  since the Bat’s missiles bounced off the Tumblers, but the Bat Pod’s could blow them up. I guess a temporary escape vehicle would have more fire-power than a specifically designed assault vehicle.

The kid in the orphanage who’s about … what, 12? Obsessively draws Bat symbols on a bench … even though he must have been 4 when Batman disappeared. But hey, Batman probably made a big impression on a four year old … except, how long was Bruce actually Batman? I always felt The Dark Knight followed immediately on from Batman Begins – maybe a month or two has passed. I reckon Batman Begins covers a month or so as Batman, The Dark Knight covers maybe the same amount of time … so  I guess Bruce was Batman for about … what, six months before he gave up for eight years? He made a hell of an impression on people in six months.

A kid gets into trouble from a street-thug-meanie because he stole an apple … but shortly before, we saw an aid truck dropping off supplies and before that we saw one of Bane’s men asking to meet with troops so they can discuss terms for supplies. They even left a bridge standing specifically so … um … well I guess it’s to bring in supplies and maybe to let other things out; but probably because they knew someone had to give Blake something to do at the end or he’d just get in the way failing at everything. So there are supplies coming in … enough to feed the cops stuck in the sewers for five months … it doesn’t really come across as if there’s a food shortage. Until it does. Then it’s not mentioned again.

I could go on all day.

I have gone on all day.

Basically there wasn’t a single scene which made sense when put next to any other scene. There were dozens of characters without any point and a lot of God-awful dialogue. When Batman faces up to Bane at the end and says something like “I’ve come back to stop you.” I actually burst out laughing.

Selina’s goggles/ears were cool. The way she beat up the baddies and then pretended to be a screaming wreck was cool. Her arse (if you’ll allow me a moment’s crudeness) was cool in that suit, but I’m not convinced anyone can stand that close to a man and still have her foot on his wrist at her head height.

Unless she has a foot on her knee.

I struggled to understand why any character did anything they did, all the way through the film. Nobody did anything I could make sense of and just seemed to behave in a way which would get the film over and done with as quickly as possible – which is odd in a film that’s that long. It really felt as if someone had taken months to go through all the comics and collect every cool image they could think of … and then spent a week or so stringing those bits together. As if the motto for the film was “We’re not doing another one, shove it all in here.”

Ultimately I was just bored.

Bored enough to think all the above while I was watching a Batman film. The only things I want to be thinking during a Batman film is “Oh my God! What’s going to happen next?” or “How’s he going to get out of that one?” or “HOLY FUCK, THAT WAS SO COOL!” … but not “Eh?” or “Why did he do that?”

And please don’t get me wrong, I don’t believe I could do better – this isn’t a writer raging against the injustice of the Hollywood system. I’m fairly certain I couldn’t do better; but that’s not the point.

These guys can.

They have done.

Batman Begins and The Dark Knight are amazing. This film should have been average at its very worst … but it’s not. Or at least, I didn’t think it was. I just found it nonsensical, dull, boring, humdrum, uninspiring, lacklustre, uninvolving, dreary and tedious.

I know, technically, those words all mean the same thing; but that’s how dull I found it.

I also know other people have completely the opposite opinion. They loved the film, they found it exciting and action-packed and thrilling and emotional and  … and … I just don’t understand what they were watching.

Or what I wasn’t watching.

I understand people have different opinions and I understand they might revel in the intricate background politics or some subplot or subtext I missed … but the phrase that confuses me the most is “I loved the action, it was amazing!”

What action?

Seriously, where was the action?

There was some punching, sure; but nothing you’d call action, surely?

I came out of it thinking I must have been wrong to go looking for action in a Batman film. I guess it just wasn’t that sort of film it was more of a thinking film (albeit one which doesn’t stand up to much); but other people seem to have come away having watched a rock ‘em sock ‘em all out action finale.

Weird.

And now my wife hates me.

And her numb-arse hates me too.

All in all, The Dark Knight Rises … it’s just not for me.

Categories: Random Witterings, Rants, Someone Else's Way | 5 Comments

Drowning in bullshit

Sometimes I think the problem with the movie industry is it’s built on bullshit.

Writers are people who make up lies up for a living.

Actors are people who tell lies for a living.

Directors are people who imagine what the writers’ lies might look like for a living.

And producers bullshit everyone until the job’s done.

 

Producers’ bullshit can be the most complex, including such useful phrases as:

  1. “I’ve already got fifty percent of the financing.”
  2. “[INSERT MOVIE STAR HERE] has agreed to star in it.”
  3. “We’re thinking of moving in another direction.”
  4. “I respect your vision, but …”

Which loosely translate as:

  1. “I’ve got no money.”
  2. “No he hasn’t.”
  3. “You’re fired.”
  4. “You’re a twat. And you’re fired.”

This is all standard bullshit and merely serves to grease the creaky wheels of fragile egos. The producer knows it’s bullshit, everyone else knows it’s bullshit … and the world keeps on ticking. It’s fine.

There are other bullshitters though, usually confined to the low-budget end of the market, who genuinely believe other people believe their bullshit. And people do … but only at the low-budget end of the market.

Some of them, you can’t really blame for making shit up. They think they’re advancing their career. Okay, so actually they’re creating a situation whereby people are laughing at them; but to anyone who doesn’t really know any better they seem persuasively impressive.

A few case studies:

CASE NUMBER ONE

This guy once told everyone he was writing the next instalment of a major franchise. Actually he’d pestered the production company about a script he’d written until they agreed to read it … and quickly passed, on the grounds it was shit.

Still, for a week or two, he went around telling everyone who would listen that he was writing the next film and the production company had asked him to submit a script. A harmless little white lie … one which gained considerable traction on the Internet and made him momentarily famous (or as famous as an un-produced writer can be).

The end result?

People at the low-budget end of the business think he’s an amazing writer … are excited to work with him on their £25,000 epic … and are usually very disappointed when they find out he’s actually not very good.

Everyone else knows he’s a bit shit and it’s all a bit of a joke.

CASE NUMBER TWO

A sound guy who claims to have worked on several major blockbusters and actually has several major blockbuster credits on his IMDb page … all fake, all added by him.

Truth be told, he’s fucking awful at his job. No, that’s not fair. He’s really good at 50% of his job, he can capture sound beautifully … he just doesn’t seem to know what to do with it afterwards.

On one shoot, the production team thought it would be funny to add a few new blockbuster credits to his IMDb page. When this guy came in the next morning, he immediately began bragging about his involvement in these films … to the people who’d made it up.

He also claims to know where Jimmy Hoffa is buried, the recipe for KFC’s special herbs and spices and to have been involved in the Coke/New Coke scandal … despite having been too young and living in the wrong country at the time.

CASE NUMBER THREE

A producer whom, thankfully, I’ve only half-worked with once who genuinely thinks he’s the forefront of the British film industry. He gets half-involved in dozens of films … and pisses off everyone every time. He’s so massively incompetent and incapable he gets banned from sets, falls out with actors, directors, writers … everyone, to be honest. He fires people who tell him (truthfully) that something is impossible on a given budget, embezzles massive amounts of the budget every time and really believes he’s incredibly sly and getting away with it.

No one ever works with him twice, people feel sorry for anyone who’s worked with him once and anyone who asks around gets warned to run away. Fast.

How does he keep getting half-involved in new projects? Because there is a constant stream of new writers and directors entering the industry and he’s the troll under the low-budget bridge they have to pass over.

Those are all people whose bullshit traps them at a low-budget level. They seem really impressive … until you actually work with them and the truth comes out. The people who know the truth move onwards to better things (or get demoralised and drop out of the industry) meaning everyone above a certain level recognises them for what they are: chancing bullshitters.

In a way, this isn’t their fault. They achieve results, just limited ones because their lies trap them. One day, hopefully, they’ll realise they’re not doing themselves any favours, stop bullshitting, learn to do their fucking jobs properly … and gain some credibility and respect.

Other people though … I have to wonder what their thought process actually is. Take …

CASE NUMBER FOUR

… for example.

A … well, nothing.

He’s not anything in the movie industry; but he told a friend of mine he had five million to invest in a film if he could have a starring role. Contracts were signed, a story was developed specifically to work with his (presumed) lack of acting ability and other, bigger stars were approached to pack around him and make him look good … but of course, he didn’t have five million to invest.

He didn’t have five pence to invest, it was all bullshit.

Let’s be clear about this, he didn’t have slightly less money than he said on a film he’d promised to part-finance. Lots of people do that, hoping the film will get so far down the road before anyone notices that someone else will be forced to find the missing cash or write off all the investment so far.

No.

He, the sole financier, had no money.

At all.

Zero pesetas.

What did he think was going to happen? Everyone was going to work for free until the movie made a profit? Fair enough, movies can be made on a wing and a prayer … but only when everyone involved knows the score, or there’s at least a tiny bit of budget to get the ball rolling.

But nothing? Nothing at all?

Mental.

What’s worse is he’s done it several times. He’s a serial bullshitter without any hope of actually achieving anything. What’s the fucking point? He doesn’t even get to work at the low-budget end because he’s so fucking stupid nothing actually gets made.

Everyone bullshits in the beginning, and I mean everyone. Whether it’s padding their CV or claiming their first paid job is more than £50 and a tube of Smarties. Most people omit to mention their day job, or that they actually live nowhere near London and attend considerably fewer meetings than they profess to … but that kind of bullshit isn’t really entrapping. It’s self-promotion, selling yourself.

McDonald’s don’t fill their adverts full of fat people looking miserably at the difference between their rock hard, four-hour-old chicken nuggets and the succulent posters on the wall behind them, so why would you fill pages of the Internet with complaints about no one wanting to work with you, not getting paid, not winning competitions and how depressed and bitter the whole thing makes you?

But at some point the bullshit has to stop.

I de-bullshitted my CV a few years back because … well, it just wasn’t necessary any more. There are enough genuine credits (of vastly varying quality) to fill a couple of pages – it’s enough.

It doesn’t take much effort to work out a guy who’s had nothing produced, but ten scripts optioned by the same production company, one he co-owns with his brother probably isn’t quite as industry-respected as he bangs on about all the fucking time in every fucking forum he can find.

So just, knock it off.

Reign the bullshit in, people. Please, for the love of my left testicle, let’s keep it to a tolerable, background whiff.

Okay?

Thank you.

Right, I’m off to my fabulous Secret Writing Island in the Caribbean to write Mission: Impossible 5, straight after dinner with the Illuminati so we can plan out the next phase of our world domination. Oh, by the way, I just won six million on a scratch card and want to fund a movie where I get to repeatedly punch producers in the nuts for an hour and a half – any takers?

Categories: Industry Musings, Rants | 11 Comments

Personal best

If there’s one thing that really aggravates me, it’s ‘Writing Advice’.

Actually, there are many, many things which aggravate me, including:

  • Earrings on babies  – why the fuck are you jabbing holes in your brand new child so you can attach sexualising jewellery to them? Aren’t babies cute enough without the need for decoration? And why the fuck would you want a sexy baby? You didn’t even ask them if you could shove a razor-sharp needle through their flesh, leaving a permanent wound – that’s just rude.
  • Fancy plugs in hotel sinks – they don’t fucking work! What’s wrong with a lump of rubber on a chain? Okay, it might not look as pretty as a stainless steel pop-up thing; but at least it fucking works! And by work, I mean keep the water from running out of the sink. I hate having to speed-shave before the water drains away from your poncy, inefficient, plug.
  • iTunes – stop, just fucking stop. There’s no need.

Let’s face it, most of the universe aggravates me in some form; but today I’m thinking about ‘Writing Advice’.

The Internet is full of the bloody stuff, largely from people who don’t know what the fuck they’re talking about. That’s not to say the advice is useless or even wrong; but the people spouting it have no personal experience and have either made up some shit which sounds good or have nicked it from someone else.

I think all of this advice has its place; and that place is after you’ve learnt how to write.

The problem with that is there is no universal ‘how to write’ method. Nor is there a such a thing as a universally good script. All good scripts probably have certain things in common, but you can’t apply a one-size-fits-all formula to everything.

We all find different things to call ‘good’ in a wide variety of entertainment.

Personally, I find the idea of spending 90 minutes watching “22 petulant gang-rapists fighting over who can put a leather globe between two sticks” mind-numbingly tedious. Others may think spending 45 minutes watching “pyjama-clad benders bang on about morality inside a pretend, wobbly plastic spaceship” to be equally pointless.

Neither person is wrong, they just have different opinions about what constitutes entertainment.

Similarly, we all like different types of films or TV shows. There’s a very popular British detective show which is loved and praised by millions of people. I watch it and all I see is people sitting in a variety of rooms discussing stuff which happened to other people who aren’t even in the fucking show. My mind just slides off it – why can’t I see what actually happened instead of hearing about it second or third hand?

That doesn’t make that show badly written, it just means it’s not the sort of thing I enjoy watching.

I could write a weekend seminar about what makes that show appalling and wrong and why you should never write anything like that … and a large percentage of the ‘delegates’ would come away thinking I was absolutely right because I had flowcharts and examples and used complicated words …

But I wouldn’t be right, because that show is wildly successful and people love it. It’s a well written show, it’s just not written in a way that I enjoy watching.

Me, as an individual. An opinion, not fact.

So when people tell you every film has to have 3 acts or 5 acts or 8 sequences or 13 steps or whatever they’ve invented in the bath that morning – they’re not right.

Or rather they are right, but not universally so.

Learn how to write the things you enjoy watching. Construct rules for yourself based on observing and de-constructing the films or TV you like. Practise writing the kind of scripts you like and then get opinions on them from as many people as possible. Listen to everyone, but only believe the people who also like the same sorts of things as you.

Opinions from people who don’t like the same sort of things as you aren’t worthless, but they aren’t necessarily right either. If everyone’s telling you the same thing, then listen to them – unless every one of those people hates the things you enjoy.

Then, once you can identify exactly what it is you do and don’t like in other people’s writing; and can be pretty certain you know how to implement or avoid them in your own work … then, you can start reading other people’s advice.

Go on, you have my permission now.

I think the best way to approach writing advice is to look for nuggets of information which back up or crystallise things you already know. Maybe there’s something which points out an obvious piece you’re missing? Maybe there’s a saying or statement which strikes a chord in you and provides an easy mnemonic for you to remember when approaching a re-write? Maybe, there’s a technique you haven’t thought of which really helps tell the kind of stories you enjoy telling?

Whatever you do, for fuck’s sake, don’t pay to be indoctrinated into a system which teaches you how to write, created by someone who’s never actually written anything themselves. I’m not saying they’re wrong, but all that information is available for free online … mostly rehashed and misunderstood by other people who don’t know how to write either, true; but it’s all there, there’s no need to pay for bad advice.

Ultimately, a script is good when people who like the same things as the writer also like the script. It’s bad when the people who like the same things as the writer don’t like it. It’s not good or bad because it follows or breaks a set of rules.

Thinking for yourself will always trump ‘advice’ inherited from others. Seriously, don’t even believe this post unless you already agree with it or have suspected the same thing for a while now.

This isn’t advice, it’s just an opinion and should be treated as extremely suspicious.

In fact, don’t even read it – you’re far better off watching the telly you enjoy and thinking things through for yourself.

Categories: Random Witterings, Rants, Someone Else's Way | 4 Comments

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